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You probably don’t remember me. I don’t even know where you live. You moved away years ago. Probably never looked back. I wouldn’t blame you.
It’s Callie, from your third grade class. Room 209, Mrs. Dooney, remember?
God, this is harder than I thought it would be. I don’t know what to say, it’s been so long. But really, just, I’m sorry.
I guess I never really thought.
I was that girl who would make fun of you. You were sort of pudgy as a little kid, so I’d sing song your name – “Derr- rick Butt –ler!” – and point at my own butt as if I had just made the world’s greatest joke. I can still remember the tune. As I type this now I can hear it echoing in my ears. I still haven’t forgotten, and it’s been what, almost ten years?
God, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long.
You were better at math than I was, Derrik. That was it. I have distinct jealous memories of you getting more gold stars on the sticker chart on the wall, of you answering every question right, of your eighth straight one hundred percent pinned to the corkboard. And I resented you for it.
Thing is, kids picked on me, too. And school was the only thing I was ever really good at. And I was the best at it. But then you acme and took it away and I just got angry. I never stopped to think that the same kids who picked on me probably picked on you, too. And I didn’t help.
I wonder if you ever walked home crying. I know what that feels like. It sucks. Your cheeks and lips and nose get cold and wet and chapped and when you try to wipe your face with a gloved hand it’s scratchy and just aggravates your growing sores. I wonder how many of those tears I caused.
You moved away, Derrik. Before I really understood.
Did you ever cut yourself, Derrik? Boys do it, too, you know. Well, I do. I do it a lot. I was bullied all through elementary and middle school, and now I have an eating disorder, cuts on my thighs, and almost no sense of self-worth. I hope you don’t hate yourself. I hope you don’t have scars. I hope none of them are from me.
The girl who bullied me is pregnant now. Her parents pulled her out of school. Her life is pretty much ruined.
So is mine, now that I think about it. I’m trying to get better from this, but I can’t get back all that time I’ve lost. I’m never going to get to be a real kid, never going to be a carefree teenager. Are you carefree, Derrik? I wish I could talk to you. I wish I could say I’m sorry in person and we could talk about our lives and maybe you’re fine and I don’t need to worry at all.
But I do worry.
Because now I understand, Derrik. I look back and there’s just this huge shame that eats me up, because this is something I did, and it’s something that could really hurt and I don’t know if it did but it might have and no matter what, I can’t take it back. And the world isn’t just split into bullies and victims, we’re all broken people in a way, and I just find that so incredibly sad. Because the last thing I want to do is break someone further, but I’ll never even know, will I?
I guess we all have things we’ve done that we’re not proud of, but I just can’t believe that I did to someone what so many others did to me. I should have known how much it hurts. I wonder if your dad clenches his fists and sets his jaw at my name the way my mom does at the names of the kids who hurt me. I never thought I’d be like them, but I guess we’re not so different in the end.
I’m sorry, Derrik.